Thursday 19 January 2017

'It's an awesome day to be Irish' - Players celebrate incredible win over all Blacks

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Chicago

Published 05/11/2016 | 23:08

Rugby has its Giants Stadium moment. Ireland's players made their way around Soldier Field draped in tricolours as they lapped up the moment with their fans. History boys one and all.

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During the week, the Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year wait for the World Series and perhaps inspired by that feat the Irish rugby team ended their own hoodoo by condemning the All Blacks to defeat for the first time.

Before the game, the players formed a figure of eight to meet the Haka in memory of Anthony Foley and their committed display would have had the sadly-departed back-row smiling warmly.

Three years ago, Ireland let their advantage slip and it looked like history might repeat itself as the world champions fought back from 30-8 down to make it a one-score game and outside of the fifteen men on the pitch doubt crept into Irish minds.

Instead, it was Ireland who finished strong and Robbie Henshaw sealed history with Ireland’s fifth try with three minutes remaining to seal the victory.

On his international debut, Joey Carbery cemented the result with the conversion. On his 11th professional appearance, he can claim to have done something that 1,080 players before him couldn’t.

Josh van der Flier, left, and Joey Carbery of Ireland celebrate after the International rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Josh van der Flier, left, and Joey Carbery of Ireland celebrate after the International rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

He was in  because Johnny Sexton cramped up after 20 minutes of the second-half. Jordi Murphy left midway through the first-half with a serious looking injury.

Rob Kearney was outstanding, Conor Murray gave a performance that marks him out as one of the world’s best out-halves and captain Rory Best led from the front. Tadhg Furlong was excellent on his first start, while Jamie Heaslip was a calming influence at crucial moments.

Ireland’s bench made their mark with Ultan Dillane superb and Finlay Bealham holding

“It's an awesome day to be Irish,” Kearney said.

“Not just for this team, but for the players who went before us. We've been waiting a long time to beat the All Blacks, it's such a difficult feat.

“We gave everything today. I think we deserved it.

Simon Zebo of Ireland celebrates after the International rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo of Ireland celebrates after the International rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

“After the Cubs at the weekend, there was something in the air in Chicago.”

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had no complaints in the aftermath.

“They were outstanding and thoroughly deserved the win,” the World Cup winner said.

“I’m proud of my players, allowed ourselves to be dominated and didn’t control possession. That’s to Ireland’s credit.

“To come back in the circumstances was brave, but in the end it was too much.

“But full credit to Ireland, I hope they enjoy it. Congratulations.

“We haven’t any excuses, we were just beaten by a better side on the day.”

For Best, who last summer led his team to a historic win over South Africa away from home, it was a proud day.

“You can see what it means to our boys to win that,” he said.

“We knew we had to go out and attack them. If you give them ball and stand off them they are an unbelievable dangerous outfit.

"I couldn't be prouder of the work we put in over the last...it hasn't just been the last couple of weeks. It have been a long time coming. It's been a long time, it's history made and we are absolutely ecstatic with a marvelous performance by us.

"I have to say a massive thanks to the supporters. The atmosphere here..it felt like a home game for us.

"They are going to have to dye the river green for this one.”

Over on US television, the commentator said: "If you want to bust a drop, you might want to make your way to Chicago".

He was right. This kind of history only happens once.

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